“Whatever form of material existence one is in, one is invariably ignorant of his real situation. In other words, existence in the material world is due to the multiple reactions to our sinful lives. Ignorance is the cause of sinful life, and sinful life is the cause of one’s dragging on in material existence. The human form of life is the only loophole by which one may get out of this entanglement. The Vedas, therefore, give us a chance for escape by pointing out the paths of religion, economic comfort, regulated sense gratification and, at last, the means to get out of the miserable condition entirely.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 4.31 Purport)
Friend1: The four pillars of sinful life have four corresponding characteristics.
Friend2: Well, avoiding them you mean.
Friend1: Yes, for each behavior you steer clear of, there is a particular quality that arises.
Friend2: Which is beneficial. Indeed, those four qualities are the hallmark of real religion.
Friend1: The foundation. If you don’t have honesty, cleanliness, austerity and compassion, religion isn’t doing much for you.
Friend2: Exactly. Therefore avoid meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex.
Friend1: I know we’ve had this discussion many times, but don’t you think some people would find it impossible to give those up?
Friend2: I’m sure just refraining from one would be a difficult ask.
Friend1: Right, so then why do we even bother? Why establish a goal that is nothing more than a pipedream?
Friend2: We don’t. That is why we say to first chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Follow bhakti-yoga. Even if you are grossly sinful there will be some benefit. This is not some exercise to make a person pure for purity’s sake. You could avoid those four behaviors and still be a bad person, you know.
Friend2: Of course. It’s probably rare to find, but a person could still be an atheist. They could still deny the existence of God, thereby helping others to stay in the darkness.
Friend1: But there is still a benefit to avoiding, right?
Friend2: Undoubtedly. It may be difficult, and the finish line may seem too far into the distance, but that is why a gradual approach works. As they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
Friend1: As long as you’re mentioning sayings, I have another one for you. “Pandora’s box.”
Friend2: Umm okay, but what does that have to do with anything?
Friend1: Isn’t that how sinful life works? Man is curious of something. He knows deep down that he should avoid, but he can’t help but give it a try. That is like opening Pandora’s box. Then all these other problems arise.
Friend2: Interesting. I guess you could say drug addiction works that way. They have all these messages in school about saying “no” to drugs. “Don’t do it.” “Don’t give in to peer pressure.” And yet people still get addicted.
Friend1: There is a downward spiral from there. You get addicted, so pretty soon you can’t live without the high. The urge is so strong that you are willing to break the law to continue. Lying, cheating, stealing. Everything is justified.
Friend2: You could say material existence works that way. Satisfy the senses. No problem just this one time. Then the urge comes again. It’s like you are adding logs to a fire, making it more intense instead of the other way around.
Friend1: I guess the answer would be to have never opened the box in the first place. Know what is good for you; trust your instincts.
Friend2: Not just that. Trust what authority figures say. They have experienced the chain reaction themselves; either personally or witnessing the effect with others. That is the benefit to descending knowledge, as opposed to trying to figure out everything for ourselves. A wise person accepts knowledge in this way and saves valuable time.
Friend1: Fortunately there is parampara, passing on the highest wisdom.
Friend2: Vedic knowledge. It includes more than just the dangers of sinful life. Everything about living, from birth to death and beyond, gets revealed to the humble and sincere student.
Allure from sins designated four,
Trying once and wanting more.
Like Pandora’s box opening to see,
Deeper into rebirth’s cycle to be.
Authority certain practices condemning,
From chain of teachers stemming.
From listening once time to save,
Future secured from proper to behave.